Crunchy, gooey, savory, sweet — everyone loves the multidimensional grilled cheese. In recent years this simple American sandwich has moved past the realm of sticky, pale-orange “cheddar” singles and into the world of gourmet cheese. Many local Austin restaurants, including 24 Diner and Blue Star Cafeteria, serve luxurious versions of the humble sandwich. But decadent, dairy-based sandwiches can easily be made in the comfort of one’s own home, impressing significant others, jealous roommates and the stomach.
To aid in pursuing any grilled cheese adventures, the Daily Texan asked local cheese vendors for the best cheeses to use when making the classic dish and then road-tested their suggestions in the kitchen. All of the cheeses were purchased at the store listed, and all of the bread and produce was purchased at Central Market. These delicacies are easily replicated in any Greater Austin area apartment with a stove. All of the sandwiches were cooked over medium heat on a nonstick skillet slathered in butter until the bread browned on both sides and the cheese looked gooey and shimmery.
Will Angst, owner of Henri’s cheese, charcuterie and wine shop, suggested using a mix of Gouda, cheddar and Alpine-style cheeses on sourdough bread.
“All three melt very well together, so you get a more complex flavor,” Angst said.
His combination was a home run: the sandwich came out fat with flavor and grease. The earthy undertones of the cloth-bound cheddar he suggested mixed with the smooth, mild Parrano Gouda made the sandwich complex and interesting. But if you’re looking for a traditional grilled cheese, steer clear of Angst’s hipster incarnation, which only resembles the Kraft-made classic in its fat content. Angst suggested putting a lot of butter on the bread. He also said that Henri’s usually adds seasonal roasted vegetables to the grilled cheese it serves in-house, but this sandwich satisfies even without the added greens.
Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar
Bleu Mont Alpine Renegade (sparingly to add salt content)
Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
Bradley Anderson at Antonelli’s suggested Fricalin Hostettler, a cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland, on rye bread with caramelized onions and a side of mustard. Again, this is not your mother’s grilled cheese. The Fricalin had a sharp, memorable flavor that can only be called strong — very, very strong. This is the kind of cheese that you recall eating a decade later when you walk past it in a grocery store and the smell raps on the back of your nostrils like a ghost of grilled cheese past. Luckily, the pungent cheese softened in the company of the sweet onions. Avoid the suggested mustard. It threw too many strong elements into the mix. But sans the extra condiment, this stinky cheese and sweet onion combo made for a sticky, savory sandwich.
Victoria Swaynos, also of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, suggested using a grape leaf-wrapped bleu with pear slices on walnut bread for “something a little bit luxurious.” The salty-sweet combo made for a nice change of pace, especially with the added flavor of the walnut bread. But can you call a sandwich without a gummy, gooey center a proper grilled cheese? This bleu didn’t melt so much as become more spreadable, and the consequent lack of stickiness between the slices of bread was unimpressive.
Rogue River Bleu, Rogue River Creamery
Whole Foods Market
Cheese monger Graham Carroll suggested using Tarentaise, a semihard cow’s milk cheese named after the French valley that inspired it, on rustic Italian bread with a side of roasted garlic and onion jelly from the New England Cranberry Company. This combination came closest to replicating the classic sandwich of childhood. The cheese was light on flavor but melted to the perfect texture, and the unusual roasted garlic and onion jelly added an unexpected but pleasant burst of flavor.
The ultimate winner was Will Angst’s recipe from Henri’s, by a hair. This sandwich had the gooeyest texture and the most interesting flavor, which struck a chord somewhere between a classic burnt orange grilled cheese and the highfalutin taste of a gourmet sandwich. The Fricalin and caramelized onion sandwich from Bradley Anderson at Antonelli’s was a close second. But in the end, they’re all winners. Because, really, who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich?
Tarentaise, Spring Brook Farm